Water Supply Type and Location
There must be water for our residents, which is one reason to place our settlements by water sources on maps. Our basic options are a river, lake, spring, or well; the size or number of these water sources will place limits on the size of community they can support. Remember that seawater doesn’t count; it can’t be consumed without making people sick. In an advanced society, desalinating large quantities of water (in treatment plants) is less of an issue than in medieval-like times; magic could change that.
The water supply is central to our settlement, whether it’s physically in the middle like a well might be, or adjacent like a river; we always have the option of having a city with a river running through it, but this is more likely when the city expanded to both sides in time, not at the start. One justification for that expansion is to guard a bridge on both ends, first with a guard tower, then a garrison, then an inn and stables, and the next thing they know, the city straddles the water.
Decide where the water is early on because “Old Town,” if it exists, will probably be closest to it.
Old Town Considerations
Cities and larger towns often have an “old town,” consisting of the settlement when it was just a town or village. This area often has a wall around it, one that’s sometimes just a few feet tall. It might be badly in need of repairs, partly because its stones might have been raided for nearby buildings when the town expanded and the wall wasn’t needed, thanks to a newer wall farther out. “Old towns” tend to be more crowded, with buildings in closer proximity to one another. This can become deadly in a fire that spreads between buildings.
Old town is the oldest and possibly most rundown area; in modern times, we’ve restored such places as tourist attractions, so this might not be the case in a more futuristic society. The streets will be narrow, the buildings in disrepair, and roads just spotty cobblestones or even mud. It might be poorer, with all manner of less desirable people here, from the innocently down-on-their-luck to scoundrels. It likely smells and will be the place where a plague takes hold. It might be a warren for thieves and worse. It’s the perfect place for someone to lead visitors into an ambush.
Not all of this may be true, however, as this could be a good market district and the center of life. If a religious site is at the center, for example, maybe this has always been well kept and preserved. We have leeway to create differing old towns and have a character from one place be surprised by how old town is in another community.